C sections, what really happens?

I’ve got some friends about to have babies, and some are looking likely situations for c sections.

I’ve had three, so naturally, I’m fielding some questions about it.

So – I just thought I’d write about it!

All of my three were different circumstances so while the c section procedure was same same but different, they were, well – same same but different!

Spoiler alert – these are not horror stories. So if you’re having a baby soon it’s prob unlikely you’ll feel freaked out after reading.

My very first c section…

Give me a minute to dust off the memory bank and dig out the details for you – I know there are some of you that need the nitty gritty so Ima gonna bring it.

Okay – so I knew from about 32 weeks that my son was going to be birthed via c section. He was in breech position and transverse lie which basically translates to, bum down, head and feet up like he was lying in a hammock. Judging by his head shape when he came earthside you’d guess he had always been in that position.

In New Zealand they like to perform planned c sections at 39 weeks, or as close to the due date as possible. I think I was booked in six days early. They do this so you’re less likely to go into labour, and also so the baby can be as fully developed as possible. And also depending on the days of the week as the operations aren’t typically booked in for weekend days (or holidays like Christmas, which was my actual due date).

After going through my obligatory hospital visits to chat with the anaesthetist etc (which wasn’t the one on the day anyway but they give you a good overview), I was booked in for the Monday morning at 8 am.

Woohoo! First of the day – when the surgeons are fresh and the team are on their game. And also woohoo I get to spend a weekend of relaxing, hanging out with friends and hopefully getting a last minute pedi in (without nail polish as they tell you to make sure you don’t have any on when you come into hospital).

I should point out here, that I had an Lead Maternity Career (LMC) in the form of my midwife, and when we knew c section was in order we engaged a specialist of her recommendation. (Yep – you can do that, just engage a specialist at the end, you have one appointment with them before the operation). I had tried to turn the baby by doing the exercises recommended and acupuncture, I wasn’t into homeopathy then, but I know people who have been successful turning their baby after a short course of pulsatilla.

Anywho, booked in for Monday morning, but low and behold at around 4 am on the Friday morning my waters broke.

It wasn’t dramatic like in the movies where you see the equivalent of a large balloon of water splash onto the floor horrifying everyone.

It was more like a small water balloon popped in my pants (LOLZ). I was in bed sleeping at the time so embarrassment was rather low. It was certainly enough to wake me up and think WTF but not enough to soak sheets. Yeah probs TMI but this is just the beginning.

I called my midwife, who seemed a little sleepy, and instructed me to put a pad in and go back to sleep but to call again in the morning or if I started getting contractions. I was a little confused at this point because the counsel until this point had been, if my waters broke to call her on the way to hospital ‘cause this baby was a comin’ out.

Nonetheless, I went back to bed, did not feel one single contraction and tried to sleep. My husband got up early to go to work thinking oh my goodness I could be meeting my son today and wanted to get some stuff done if that was the case. He shouldn’t have bothered – by the time I’d spoken to my midwife again around 7 am she said best get your bag packed, have a shower, you’re most likely having your baby today.

At this point I still had not a single contraction (and didn’t get that ‘plug’ that people talk about). Spoiler alert – I didn’t have ANY whatsoever. There’s a weird feeling associated with that, as if you’re somehow ‘cheating’ your birth, but that’s probably an article all on it’s own – grieving for the birth you wanted but didn’t have (strange but true). Silly when I look back now of course but at the time it felt like I’d missed a rite of passage, some special entry into motherhood.

Anyway - we went to the hospital and then essentially there was a lot of waiting around. We would’ve been there by 9 am and my son wasn’t born until after 2 pm.

So what goes on? Well – for starters, they strapped a monitor thing to my big belly to monitor the baby’s heartbeat. Then the bearer of bad news comes and says I’m sorry but you’re waiting for surgery so you cannot eat. Well, that wasn’t a drama since I hadn’t eaten at that point, but I tell you what, I was absolutely ravenous by the time the surgery rolled around. Basically you go on a waiting list to get into theatre, but you can get bumped if an emergency happens. And although this was deemed an ‘emergency’ c section, it wasn’t an emergency as a real life threatening emergency if you get what I mean. 

Anyway – you get wheeled from your ward, towards the theatre.

OH – important to note here that I was already in a hospital gown, basically prepped for theatre. So no bra, no undies, just your backless gown. Also important to note here, that once your waters break the liquid does not stop coming. So basically you’re lying on a giant ‘bluey’ which is like a wide but lean pad/mat which gets changed periodically (honestly our hospital staff are not paid enough!).

I had a drip put in earlier, but it wasn’t until my third c section that I knew what was going in (I thought it was fluids). You get antibiotics intravenously, which is pretty crucial for major surgery as there is risk of serious infection – yes even in a sterile environment where every precaution is taken. It wasn’t until recently that I learned that you can actually opt out of this. I didn’t know that at the time.

At some point during all of this I signed some forms. Stuff I’d already signed at the hospital pre check in a week before hand, but just to reiterate things like ‘yes I’ve read everything, yes I’d like to keep my placenta’, ‘Yes I understand the risks with the epidural’, ‘yes that’s my name and birthdate’, ‘yes the staff have explained things’, all that kinda jazz.

And I’m starving. Still starving. In fact, so was baby daddy, so while we were waiting around I said why don’t you go and get some food love! Literally about a minute after he left I had to call and say, GAME ON mate get your ass back here. Then he was directed by my midwife to go and get scrubs on, and I wouldn’t see him again until I got into theatre.

So where are we – ah yes, waiting for theatre. The anaesthetist chats to you to make sure you know what’s going on, what to say to him if you’re not feeling right and what they can give you to mitigate side effects – which may include but are not limited to; itching, freezing, dry mouth, feeling faint etc.

You get a cap on then you’re wheeled into theatre.

Theatre. Wow. Okay so basically – heads up - check your dignity at the door.

You get onto the table and depending on what procedure they’re doing, epidural or spinal tap, you try your best to hunch over a pillow to stick your spine out because, you know, it’s pretty crucial to get the right spot.

WOW that hurt.

Holy smokes that’s one big needle.

It’s kinda nerve wracking because you’re prepped that for some it goes bad and they can have paralysis to some extent so you’re trying your hardest not to move but also it’s quite difficult sitting on a hospital bed leaning over into a hunch with a giant belly. Anyway – it went in. With no trouble whatsoever. And within a couple of minutes I felt reallllllllly cold and also had no sensation from about my chest down.

Then you lie down on the table in Jesus pose. It’s about at this point that you realise you’re now basically naked and vulnerable in a room of mainly strangers.

Let’s see, there’s the Anaesthetist, anaesthetist assistant, the surgeon, the midwife, at least a few nurses, probably assistants for other things. So all up probably around ten people.

It’s at this point the anaesthetist checks to see if the epidural has taken effect. To do this he had a cube of ice, which I could feel on my face, but not even slightly noticeable on my legs. I think that he started with it on my face so I could feel it and then went down the arms, torso and legs to see what I could feel. Which was basically nothing. But pretty crucial to check before getting the scalpel out.

Then the catheter goes in. Weird being a room full of strangers with that kind procedure going on.

Once we’re all ready to go the surgeon comes in. A screen is put up in front of my shoulders so I can’t see anything, and he begins cutting.

I should prob mention at this point the staff have al been totally friendly, it’s just another day at the office for them. Seen one naked pregnant lady seen ‘em all (LOLZ).

Did I feel anything? Not at this point, to be honest I didn’t even know they were cutting. No any pain whatsoever (but I did feel itchy – so the anaesthetist gave me something for that, then I felt shivering cold, so I had something for that too).

After a couple of minutes (it’s quick as) I felt tugging and pulling but again – no pain whatsoever, and after some serious tugging and lunging and fully putting his back into it, our obstetrician delivered our baby boy.

It’s so bizarre seeing your baby for the first time, under fluorescent lights being held up by a man in scrubs and gloves. So far from what I had imagined my birth to be like!

He was kind of a dark purple sort of colour, with lots of black hair and to be honest I thought he looked quite strange. It’s a weird thing seeing your newborn baby for the first time. Maybe partially because he’s crying (which is a good thing remember, breathing air for the first time) so has mad cry face on, but is covered in stuff (vernix and fluid and whatever else) and it’s strange because you have no idea what they’ll look like before hand, but pretty soon you just think, of course that’s what they look like!

We did cord banking with him (and the others) so it’s at this point that they clamped the cord, get the stemcells for the cord banking which gets put on a courier virtually immediately. Then they deliver the placenta (or maybe they’d already done that I’m not sure).

Then they take the baby for weighing and for the first of two APGAR tests before wrapping him, putting a beanie on and putting him next to my head. He’s already back to sleep at this point, babies love a good swaddle.  My husband was by his side from the moment he was hoisted out, watched him get weighed etc while I’m still in Jesus pose, unable to move whatsoever and listening to my baby cry. Pretty surreal to be honest. Can’t really describe it other than to say it was emotional and I did shed a tear or two.

For the next 30-40 minutes I’m being stitched up (there’s a lot of layers to stitch) before being wheeled to recovery.  I didn’t get to carry bubs to recovery (Obvs I’m still lying down at this point) he got wheeled by his dad in his little hospital crib.

What happens in recovery? Well you slowly regain feeling to your arms, though the legs take much longer. You’re still hooked up to the heart monitor machine and nurses come and check your vitals regularly. Then you get to try breastfeeding which is not quiiiiiiiiiite as simple as just putting your baby on the breast, there’s a lot to learn with it for both mum and bub but fortunately for us, as far as things go I found it pretty easy (though I’d learn a lot about technique over the coming weeks). It was also where I started the skin to skin bonding with my little Leonardo and I absolutely loved it. Snuggling this sweet little bundle who just wanted, and needed his mama. It’s a beautiful thing.

Once out of recovery you get to go to your hospital room, with nurses checking on your regularly. You’re also at this point given flight socks (well, they’re put on you because you can’t reach to put them on yourself), you know those kind of compression socks to help with your circulation in your legs. I didn’t have the machines on my legs at this point, but I did with subsequent surgeries.

Could probably insert here that at this stage the very excited Grandparents came in to have a cuddle with the new little squishy bundle of joy.

At this point the catheter was still in, and so is your drip. I had an epidural and pethidine for this birth, which I think has since been phased out, but because of that I was hooked up to a machine with a locked box (wowsers) and a button I could press if I needed more pain relief. Nurses would give me other medication on schedule. Why did I go with this method drug wise? Well to be honest it kind of comes down to the Anaesthetist, from what I was told anyway.

The next day the catheter came out and I needed to walk to the toilet. Not easy feeling that weak to be honest but you build up your strength relatively quickly and before you know it you’re not so hunched.

I had two nights in hospital before transferring to birthcare, our maternity hospital which was amazing. The staff in hospital are great but unless you’re high needs you don’t get much help. By high needs I mean babies that are born to addicts or who have complications that need extra support.

Birth care though – wow wee so many midwives, if you needed one you just lifted the phone off the hook and one would come swiftly. All had different advice to offer which was a little overhwleming at times. All you can do is glean what works for you and then feel your own way through it.

It was at birthcare that I noticed I was completely blocked up though, as in, could not poo. Partially because of the operation and partially because of the drugs and partially because of the heavy foods that went into my gut afterwards (I learnt from all of this with numbers two and three).

So I was on Metamucil and lactulose to try and get things moving, if you know what I mean. And if you don’t well basically I couldn’t poo. I was constipated with a good ten meals in my gut and if you have any inkling to what that feels like combined with a fear of going poos because you’re worried about straining and popping your fresh stitches then you may have some idea….

And therein lies c section number one.

If you’ve read this far, thank you!

If you’re still interested, here comes number two.

Different kettle of fish.

Archie was engaged from the time he was supposed to be. He was due on the 2nd of February but he too came early (Interestingly on the due date based on period date not scan date and his older brother was the same).

I went into labour with him, but it was on and off, sporadic, contractions here and there and then they’d stop for a day (but there was still movement with him).

After two days of this happening shit finally got real when I started having contractions three minutes a part lasting almost a minute.

How do I describe the pain?

Um, horrific.

 I couldn’t talk to my husband during them, I needed space, I needed to kind of lunge to take pressure of my pelvis and it was not fun whatsoever.

So after a night of contractions on and off then steady for a few hours, it was time to go to hospital.

The grandparents were called to come and get Leo who was two at this point.

Thank goodness, because each time I had a contraction I moaned and basically moo’d like a cow in pain LOLZ.

Although I was in pain I felt happy to be attempting a VBAC (vaginal birth after caesarean). I felt jipped by my previous birth and wanted the rite of passage that comes with birthing a human.

However, as I arrived at hospital my contractions stopped. Have you heard of that before? The theory is that you’e in a safe place so you relax and contractions stop. Upon inspection with my midwife I unfortunately wasn’t dilated.


Talk about a letdown. I felt disappointed, felt like I’d wasted my midwife’s time (she didn’t make me feel like that in the slightest though bless her).

What we ascertained is that he was engaged but posterior which means he was ‘sunny side up’, his head was facing the wrong way and his spine was on my spine.

I was in for one excruciating birth. And highly likely a very long and slow one.

So I was advised by my midwife and surgeon to seriously consider c section because these kind of positions were difficult for birthing, long, slow, and extremely painful (on the scale of painful births of which most are). Also we were advised to seriously consider about making a decision sooner rather than alter because if we ended up in c section anyway no-one is at their best at 2 am. That’s to say if you want a good job done it’s prob best we do it during the day before tiredness etc kick In and concentration isn’t as high.

We went home, and what do you know, my contractions started again.

I’m not joking when I tell you that as soon as we left the hospital they started again.

I had a long shower, washed my hair just in case I wasn’t going to for a while, and made the decision to go with a c section because I couldn’t bear much more of this intense pain.

So  - back to hospital – baby heartbeat monitor thing back on, contractions happening again and I’m in the most uncomfortable position for contractions, in a bed, but with a drip in my arm and thing strapped to my belly.

My contractions were about a minute apart by the time we got into theatre. I had spinal tap or block or something this time around. As I had the injection in my back I felt like what I can only describe as an electric shock run down one leg. Like thousands of volts going down one leg. The baby felt it too, he stated wriggling like mad and then before you knew it I couldn’t feel things due to the numbness taking effect. (Don’t worry bubs was obvs still being monitored at this point and clearly I was in the best place should he be distressed and needing to come out quickly).

What I thought was painful during my first c section was not painful at all compared to contractions. What was difficult was staying still for a large needle when I’m getting contractions every minute or so!

I was in tears. Like sobbing from the pain of the contractions. So when my son was born and I finally got to have a cuddle with him I was understandably overjoyed to have the birth over and done with.

After one night in hospital this time I transferred to birthcare for a further three nights.

And that’s number two.

Number three

Well – maaaaaaaaajor difference.

Once you’ve had two c sections you can’t opt for a VBAC – it’s straight c section. There’s too much scarring on the uterus and the risk of rupturing is too high.

So I was scheduled in on a Friday, early morning. I was instructed to get to the hospital at 7 am where I then got into my backless down once more, sat around in a lazy boy in between going for preparatory form signing and pre meds. That reminds me actually, when you’re having a planned c section there are some pills you take the night before as well, obviously that didn’t’ happen with the others because they didn’t happen as planned.

There was a lot of sitting around while we waited so I took a colouring book and coloured in for a while. We were close to the recovery ward, I remember distinctly hearing a newborn baby cry, and (as that was from the lady who was ahead of me in the queue) I know that it was almost go time for us.

When it was time I went in and got my antibiotic drip but in, followed by my chat with the anaesthetist and one more final form signing before being wheeled down to theatre.

It was a bit of a different atmosphere in the theatre this time around. Fat freddies was playing on the radio, the staff were smiling and all very happy. In hindsight I’m sure they were the other times too but I had confidence going into this one and without contractions to distract me I could actually take it all in.

One nurse was excited that I wanted to try seeding this time around, and they were all very attentive when I started feeling sick on the table and freezing cold (the drugs to weird things). The spinal tap again wasn’t so bad this time around. I’d been through it twice before and I think mentally that really helps!

Like with my second birth, I was able to have skin to skin very quickly. As soon as they’d done the routine tests I had skin to skin and he fell asleep on me straight away. Right next to the heartbeat that he’d known his entire life. If you’ve had this before then you’ll know it’s pure bliss. Though you’ve only met them for the first time you already feel like you’ve known them forever and you’d do anything for them. Your heart just expands and bursts with love. It’s amazing the capacity we have for love!

With my first born I stayed two nights in hospital then two nights at birthcare as you need ideally to have four days of care. Second time round I did one night in hospital and three nights in birthcare. Third time around I did two nights in hospital and went home, opting to spend the money I wouldn’t spend on birthcare instead on a raw, organic plant based meal delivery service instead.

You can read all about it and my top tips for c section recovery in my much earlier blog post.

Approaching the birth of your child can be a very scary and daunting thing. I remember freaaaaaaaaking out about it and wondering how I was supposed to get that out of there.

I remember my midwife, who is a mother herself, telling me that birthing is like the Mt Everest of the pregnancy. It seems like an insurmountable event leading up to it, but as soon as you’ve reached the peak (metaphorically) you see over and beyond it and the view is very different. In the grand scheme of things it’s really only one day (okay or maybe a few) in your lifetime. It can seem like forever at the time but pretty soon it’s all over. And to be honest if my baby was on board I’d have another in heartbeat.

In all honesty the hard work really begins once the baby is here. But as cliché as it sounds its such a precious time, that for all the love and money in the world you can never ever get back. So kiss and cuddle and enjoy that little baby as much as you can. And yes mama there are going to be hard times, that’s for certain but I can tell you, it’s all worth it. Your heart will expand in ways that you never knew possible.

Being a parent is a journey, not a destination. And birthing really just marks the beginning. Enjoy the journey, and the cuddles, those newborn snugs are simply the best! xx


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